Metaphor in computer science

Timothy R Colburn, G. M. Shute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The language of computer science is laced with metaphor. We argue that computer science metaphors provide a conceptual framework in which to situate constantly emerging new ontologies in computational environments. But how computer science metaphors work does not fit neatly into prevailing general theories of metaphor. We borrow from these general theories while also considering the unique role of computer science metaphors in learning, design, and scientific analysis. We find that computer science metaphors trade on both preexisting and emerging similarities between computational and traditional domains, but owing to computer science's peculiar status as a discipline that creates its own subject matter, the role of similarity in metaphorical attribution is multifaceted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-533
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Logic
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Abstraction
  • Computer science
  • Metaphor
  • Ontology
  • Virtual entities


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